It rained heavily all night and continued in the morning. My original plan had me riding an unpaved road from Crescent Head to Port Mac – even if the rain stopped, which it wasn’t meant to for a couple of days, the road would be in dubious condition. I rang Busways at 8 am Friday morning and learned they would take my bicycle from Crescent Head. Unfortunately I’d missed the first bus which would have readily connected in Kempsey with the bus to Port Macquarie. Better to wait the day in Kempsey than linger here.
The single other passenger, myself and my bicycle rode in the cabin of the bus for the half-hour trip to Kempsey. There I found a café with WiFi and settled in for the day. Lou’s is a weirdly old-school diner-like place which I really sort of liked. But four hours of sitting anywhere watching the rain fall kind of sucks.
I noticed two things about Kempsey.
One, in some ways it looks like more of Australia should by its high proportion of residents of Aboriginal heritage. It seemed, on the surface anyway, there was reasonable integration of black and white with everyone just going about their everyday working day. In comparison, other Australian towns I’ve visited with high proportions of Aboriginals – such as Katherine in the Northern Territory – feel like they are segregated places where many Aboriginals appear to be living quite different lives than their non-Aboriginal neighbours.
Two, it was the least friendly place I visited. People weren’t rude but compared with elsewhere fewer made eye-contact, fewer said ‘hello’, and fewer asked about the bicycle and my trip. There must have been five or six staff on over the course of my time at Lou’s and not one engaged me in even passing conversation.
As the afternoon wore on and the time for the bus to Port drew near I began worrying that the driver might not take me – the bus was also a school bus, I had no idea how many kids it might serve. While waiting I started thinking of my options. This would be the last local bus until Monday. The rain was meant to continue until Sunday – so if he wouldn’t take me I’d be in Kempsey for another 36 hours, in the rain – a very unappealing idea. Alternatively I could throw in the towel and get the bus to Sydney either later that night or the next day.
Fortunately Chris, the driver, did take me to Port along with his menagerie of school children and a pair of accompanied special-needs adults. The bicycle filled the luggage area and the bus made its meandering way to the coast.
To be at a hostel in Port Macquarie was a little strange for me. My ex-husband’s parents lived in town for a number of years during our marriage so we spent quite a few holidays there. To be staying among the tourists was peculiar. The centre of town was as boring as ever.
I had arrived on Ironman weekend and the place was chockers with ultra-athletes or those who hoped, on Sunday, to join their ranks.
It rained heavily off and on Friday night and all day Saturday. While enjoying a new development since my last visit – the arrival of genuinely good coffee served in a genuinely good little café, Blackfish – I realised that whatever weather came on Sunday I was done with the test ride. I had learned what I needed to learn – about how to pack and what to carry, and I had tested my gear. More importantly I had tested my strengths: physical, mental and emotional and had found myself strong, resilient and ready.
The route south was again meant to be on many an unpaved road and even if it stopped raining the storms of the previous fortnight would have done some damage. I’d had enough. I rang Greyhound and booked myself and my bicycle on to Sunday’s evening bus to Sydney.